On the June night when Kawhi Leonard’s season abruptly ended, the full potential of his partnership with Paul George was only beginning to be realized.
There had been flashes of it in their two seasons on the Clippers. On a cold Minnesota night in December 2019, the All-Star forwards became the first players in franchise history to both score at least 40 points in the same game. Months later in their first postseason together, George scored 35 points and Leonard 32 in a rout of Dallas that set up their eventual first-round series victory.
But not until last month, after the Clippers returned home having lost their first two games at top-seeded Utah, only to even the series behind a pair of dominant performances by their stars, had Leonard and George produced overlapping, dominant performances so consistently under significant stakes.
Leonard responded with 34 points and 12 rebounds, while George added 31 points, including six three-pointers, in a Game 3 victory. Their assists led to 25 more points. Two nights later, George scored 31 more, his nine free throws the result of aggressive drives, and Leonard added 31 — including two on a stunning dunk — behind 10 free throws to level the series.